San Antonio International Airport officials have added parking and expanded shuttle service to accommodate an expected increase in travelers over the holiday season.
In recent months, short-term parking garages have been filled to capacity, said Thomas Bartlett, deputy aviation director.
“I think some of the habits of a traveler changed somewhat,” he said. “They’re choosing to drive to the airport and choosing to park.”
While airport officials have a long-term plan to solve the parking shortage, holiday travel numbers this year are expected to compare to pre-pandemic 2019 holiday travel, according to Bartlett.
With a goal of having space for any traveler who chooses to park, Barlett said 1,000 long-term parking spaces were recently added to existing surface lots, which he said will be used once all the other parking spaces are filled.
“That’ll be like our final overflow,” he said.
Travelers can use the Fly Away Valet service, which returned to San Antonio’s airport in recent months, to reserve a parking space before going to the airport. In addition, the shuttle bus service will transport travelers between the lot and terminals 24 hours a day.
The department has also staffed up and prepared its Ambassador Program with volunteers who, among other duties, help travelers get where they need across the airport.
Prior to 2020, when the pandemic depressed air travel, parking lots and garages filled to capacity only during holiday peak travel times. In recent months, the short-term parking garage has reached capacity 60 times and the surface lots twice.
In a Nov. 2 briefing to the San Antonio City Council, Director of Airports Jesus Saenz said the airport has had to close the parking garages 50 times over the last six months.
“The short-term parking continues to close on a daily basis,” he said, due to a post-COVID-19 rebound in passenger numbers in 2022.
In 2019, the airport saw between 14,000 and 17,000 departing holiday travelers a day, plus a similar number of arriving travelers, said Bartlett.
This year, “we’re looking at probably anywhere from [30,000] to 35,000 on certain days during Thanksgiving,” he said.
The San Antonio airport has more than 9,000 vehicle parking spaces. Of that number, the short-term parking garage has 1,238 spaces, 664 of which are used by the valet service. The long-term parking garage has 5,439 spaces, plus 166 spots for oversize vehicles. The economy surface lots have 2,447 spaces and a shuttle service.
“I fully encourage the valet parking to get that guaranteed space, but feel confident — fingers crossed — that we have [enough] parking at the airport” over the holidays, Bartlett said.
Valet parking costs $33 a day. The rate for daily parking in the short-term garage is $27. The cost to park in a long-term parking garage is $16 per day, and it’s $8 per day in the economy lots.
That $8 rate put San Antonio International Airport at the No. 4 spot in the Wall Street Journal’s recent ranking of midsize U.S. airports’ parking value. The airport itself also ranked fourth overall within the group of 30.
There are other options for parking, as well, such as private lots and nearby hotels, including the Marriott Courtyard, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Days Inn by Wyndham and Doubletree by Hilton.
Pricing for parking at nearby hotels ranges from $3 to $58 per day, depending on travel dates and duration.
Airport Security Park, located near the airport entrance at 1106 Halm Blvd, provides roughly 2,000 parking spaces.
The rate for economy parking there is about $9.32, including sales tax and an airport access fee. The rate for a covered parking space, including tax and the fee, is about $11.73, according to security at the private lot.
VIA Metropolitan Transit offers rides to the airport from the Stone Oak Park & Ride, with free parking for those headed to the San Antonio airport. VIA’s express fare is $2.60 each way.
Even though the airport is busier, “we find that [there is] a lot more festive environment,” said Bartlett. “Travelers are happy. They’re excited to be able to go see family or friends and travel and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.”
To be part of the happy throng, Bartlett recommended arriving at the airport ahead of time to navigate busy traffic in the area, being patient and asking for help if needed.